Steelers defensive back Thomas isn't conceding starting position yet
Despite being listed as Troy Polamalu's backup at strong safety at the end of last season, Shamarko Thomas hoped to challenge for the starting free safety job after Ryan Clark signed with Washington.
Thomas played both positions during his rookie season. But after a season in which the secondary consistently was torched, the Steelers opted to replace Clark with an experienced free safety.
The signing of veteran Mike Mitchell to a $25 million deal suggests Thomas will play mostly in nickel and dime packages this season. But the second-year safety from Syracuse said he now is more able to “fly around and do whatever they want me to do.”
“I picked up a lot playing multiple positions last year,” Thomas said during last month's organized team activities (OTAs). “The playbook is easier to learn, but I need to come out every day as if it's game day.
“I was all over the place last year because I didn't know the playbook. I was thrown into the fire, and sometimes I got burned. I'm more knowledgeable about this defense.”
Thomas enters training camp next weekend at St. Vincent feeling confident about his chances of redefining his role. He isn't searching for more playing time. Instead, he's hoping to impact a defense that largely was inconsistent during a second consecutive 8-8 season.
“It's going to be hard getting on the field because we have a lot of athletes and veterans on the roster,” said Thomas, who made two starts in 2013 and finished with 29 combined tackles. “It's lot of competition, so I have to learn from them to make my game better.”
“I think competition makes all of us better,” safety Will Allen said. “Shamarko is a competitor, and he proves it every day.”
Thomas is convinced he learned enough during the past year to earn more playing time. As a result, he isn't willing to concede the starting job to Mitchell.
“The expectation is to start, but at the end of the day, it's about what the coaches want,” Thomas said. “But don't get it wrong, we're going to compete.”
Thomas constantly reminds himself of the powerful words his mother, Ebeth Shabazz, shared with him long before her death.
“My mom taught me that if there's something you want, go get it,” Thomas said. “She always said there's no time to take a break.
“She always said God won't give you more than you can handle. I always keep that in my head. Everybody wants to be a starter, so it's why I believe that it'll happen when it's time.”
Thomas insists his biggest challenge is being patient. He credits Polamalu with keeping him grounded and focused during his rookie season.
“I'm going to stay in Troy's ear,” he said. “We're not just talking about football. We're talking about life because if you're not consistent off the field, then you won't be consistent on the field.
“I feel like I'm in my zone because I've been consistent with my workouts and learning something every day. I've been through a lot of trials and tribulation, so my faith has allowed me to be patient.
“I'm just going to keep working and grinding, and everything will come together.”
Ralph N. Paulk is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Game changers: Turnover leads to elusive TD for Steelers
- Steelers notebook: Rooney says owners support Goodell
- Offense awakens to lead Steelers past Panthers
- Value of nickel rising in NFL
- Steelers notebook: Panthers LB Kuechly making an impression
- Robinson: Study shows NFL troublemakers don’t get hurt in wallet
- Moore hopes to see red (zone) in Steelers debut
- Starkey: Can Steelers’ Mitchell find Carolina cure?
- Steelers notebook: Ravens DL fined for hit on Roethlisberger
- Play to watch: Inside zone read slant/bubble
- Steelers’ Polamalu relying on smarts as physical skills decline